Science  12 Jan 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5809, pp. 173
  1. Googling Galaxies

    1. Adrian Cho

    The computer whizzes at Google have agreed to help scientists sift through the mounds of data from a proposed telescope that aims to scan half the cosmos. Project leaders welcome Google's contribution to the $350 million Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) as they seek funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) for most of the project.

    Operating from a peak in northern Chile, the LSST would snap shots of every star and galaxy above once every 3 nights, enabling researchers to study the structure of the cosmos, probe the dark energy that is accelerating the expansion of the universe, and search for countless oddities. Google will help manage the 30 terabytes of data captured each night and develop algorithms to search through it, says J. Anthony Tyson, a physicist at the University of California, Davis, and director of the LSST project. Google was drawn to the project in part through personal connections, says Rob Pike, a computer scientist at Google in Mountain View, California, who worked at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey, when Tyson worked there. Researchers hope to begin operating the telescope in 2014, assuming that NSF approves the project and begins funding it in 2009.

  2. Papering Over Their View?

    1. Martin Enserink

    Seeking to ward off what they see as unwarranted curbs on studies involving embryos that are part human and part animal, Stephen Minger of King's College London and four other British stem cell scientists launched a media offensive last week. They believe the public has misunderstood the purpose of such chimeras, which would be used only to derive stem cell lines for research. Currently, British law doesn't ban human-animal embryos. But in a position paper issued in December, the government hinted that because of “considerable public unease” with the prospect of chimeric embryos, it would propose a ban in a bill expected this spring. It also suggested it may grant exceptions.

    Minger claims the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) told him informally that it would reject his pending research proposal involving chimeric embryos and another similar proposal pending the new bill. An HFEA spokesperson denies having done so; the agency was to make up its mind at a meeting after Science went to press this week.

  3. Korea Boosts R&D Spending

    1. Dennis Normile

    Nuclear fusion research gets a 20% increase in South Korea's new science budget, thanks to the soon-to-be-completed Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research facility and the country's involvement in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. “The Korean government decided fusion should be one of our major R&D efforts,” says National Fusion R&D Center Director Kyoungsoo Lee about the spending boost, to $72 million. Overall, spending on science and technology will rise 9.6% to $10.4 billion, making 2007 the second year in a row in which research receives the largest percentage increase of any budget sector.

  4. An Italian Welcome Mat

    1. Francesco de Pretis

    Italy hopes to attract more foreign scientists to its universities by offering them salaries and tenure comparable to what their Italian colleagues receive. Fabio Mussi, Italy's minister of universities and research, has set up a special government fund to finance the changes; meanwhile, support for ongoing research projects will be reviewed in hopes of finding money to stabilize current academic positions.

    Scientists like the idea but are waiting to see how Mussi will follow through. Elisa Molinari, a physicist and director of the Italian Institute for the Physics of Matter, believes that a better way to attract “brilliant brains from all over the world” would be for the government to spend more on research.

  5. Poached Eggs

    1. Christopher Pala

    An international body has ended a ban on exporting caviar, or sturgeon eggs, from the Caspian Sea. Last week, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) allowed exports of stellate and Russian sturgeon caviar to resume, noting “improvements to the monitoring programs” of Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Iran.

    The move comes despite evidence that sturgeon poaching is rampant. Phaedra Doukakis of the Pew Institute for Ocean Science in New York City says that CITES “gave no evidence the species were recovering. This decision flies in the face of its principle to allow trade only when it demonstrably does not jeopardize the survival of a species.” CITES limited the total exports to 86 tons, 15% less than in 2005, the last year exports were permitted.

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